Mindless arsonists blamed for torching charity garden

By Marijke Peters ARSONISTS torched a Crouch End community centre on Sunday evening, causing tens of thousands of pounds of damage. The timber hut at the Sunnyside community garden on Hazellville Road was set alight at around 7.30pm but the blaze had burn

By Marijke Peters

ARSONISTS torched a Crouch End community centre on Sunday evening, causing tens of thousands of pounds of damage.

The timber hut at the Sunnyside community garden on Hazellville Road was set alight at around 7.30pm but the blaze had burned itself out by the time the Fire Brigade arrived.

The garden is home to a project for mentally and physically disabled patients who help plant vegetables and tend the crops.


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Sunnyside's physical disabilities manager Barbara Mahon said: "It's completely devastating. It's an eco-building that was put up about 25 years ago and was very special.

"The people who come here really enjoy being in the garden and I'm very upset for them - they were pretty choked up when I told them what had happened.

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"I'd love to get my hands on whoever did this. They were obviously trying to burn us down but God knows why they'd want to do that."

The community garden was set up by a charity in 1978 to turn derelict land into an outdoor space to be enjoyed by the whole community.

Children with challenging behaviour and other vulnerable people take part in planting sessions aimed at providing them with an alternative form of therapy.

There is also a weekly organic vegetable market and the charity runs composting schemes for local people.

The gardens have been vandalised in the past but staff said the damage has never been this bad.

Solar panels installed to provide electricity were completely ruined and the roof of the hut burned right through. Trees close to the hut were scorched and many nearby plants were covered in rubble after the fire.

Sunnyside manager Andy Samel said: "This garden is for the community and it's annoying. We are creating a beautiful space for the public to enjoy and a minority of mindless people want to cause harm. It's very saddening.

"We want people to feel good about where they live and give them a sense of belonging and respect and we hope to hold an event where we can reopen the gardens and turn it around so people are aware of what we do."

Three men in their 20s and 30s and one woman in her 30s have been arrested on suspicion of arson following a house fire in nearby Crouch Hill on Monday night, although the two incidents have not been linked.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Islington CID on 020-7421 0185 or Crimestoppers on 0800-555 111.

broadway@hamhigh.co.uk

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